France: Riots Break Out, Strikers Block Fuel Refineries as Millions Protest

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Violent riots and economically damaging activist actions broke out in France on Tuesday as the country saw one of its biggest mass mobilisations of protesters in years in response to President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise the pension age from 62 to 64 years old.

Millions of people took part in protests across 200 towns and cities in France on Tuesday, with the organising CGT union claiming that up to 3.5 million people flooded out onto the streets, while the French Interior Ministry put the number at around 1.28 million.

The protests and accompanying trade union strikes were the sixth such demonstration since January against President Macron’s planned pension age hike to 64, which would still be lower than other major European nations such as Britain, Germany, and Spain. Nevertheless, the proposal has sparked outrage among the French public that has been suffering under economic hardship caused by rampant inflation.

According to President Macron, the raising of the pension age is required to keep the programme solvent given the the independent Pensions Advisory Council has predicted that large deficits will hit the system over the next 25 years. In addition to raising the pension age, the Neo-liberal president and former Rothschild banker has also called for workers to have put into the system for 43 years before becoming eligible for full retirement benefits.

According to CGT, Tuesday’s demonstrations were the largest of their kind since 2010 against then President Sarkozy’s own pension reform plans. A protester speaking to the left-wing paper Libération said that he hopes for “a greater balance of power emerge, like the Yellow Vests” and that the only solution to stop the pension reforms are to “block the economy”.